PhD Scholarship: Collecting practices through Southeast Asian materials

The British Museum and SOAS are jointly offering a PhD scholarship to study the history of collecting in Southeast Asia in the 19-20th centuries. A really interesting subject, but available only to UK/EU applicants. Deadline is 28 April 2015.

AHRC-funded project studentship in Department of Asia at the British Museum and the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS

The Department of Asia at the British Museum and the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS invite applications from suitably qualified UK/EU candidates for a full-time, 3-year Collaborative Doctoral Award funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council on the subject of ‘Thick provenance: interactions between European and Southeast Asian collecting practices refracted through the lens of the mainland Southeast Asia material at the British Museum.’

The project is a critical and comparative history of collecting in mainland Southeast Asia in the 19th-20th centuries. It proposes to examine the biographies of the British Museum’s mainland Southeast Asian collections, comprising analysis of modes of object ownership, perceptions of value, and exchange practices with reference to accumulation of family heirlooms and communal palladia (sources of protection and legitimation), as well as diverse modes of object circulation.

The mainland Southeast Asian collections at the British Museum contain lowland Buddhist objects, lacquerware, weapons and knives, archaeological material, pipes, and coins and banknotes, which are largely well-catalogued. More extensive, however, is the body of highland ethnographic material, including textiles and objects of daily use, such as baskets, which have not been thoroughly catalogued or researched. These objects come from the wide panoply of peoples, from the Chin and Naga in the western areas to the Shan, Karenni and Lahu of the eastern and central ones, who live in the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia and are not confined by national borders. Little is known about how these objects were collected and used locally and regionally, the roles they played within their local communities, or the means by which they were collected and arrived at the British Museum. It is anticipated that the student will focus upon this latter body of material for the PhD in order to provide a better understanding of object usage and ownership within regional and group relations, as well as the interactions between Europeans and locals at the time of collection.

Details here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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